By December 2, 2009

Random Motorcycling Tip #10: How to Avoid a Lane Incursion

Let’s be honest: motorcycles don’t have much going for them in the event of a crash. Braking distance is longer for a motorcycle than that of a car, stability is compromised at lower speeds, and then there’s that whole “fly off the bike” thing if you collide with an object.

The two big advantages motorcycles have over automobiles are acceleration and size. You’ll need them both when an automobile attempts to change lanes into you. Here’s what I do to avoid lane incursions.

Identifying a potential lane incursion

The cornerstone of motorcycle safety is vigilance. Here are things I look for in order to anticipate a lane incursion:

  • Cars moving much faster than other traffic. These people are in a hurry, or think they’re in a hurry. They may be more likely to cut you off or not bother to check their side mirrors / blind spots.
  • Slow lane changers. This is the opposite of the super fast, super aggressive driver above. This person is usually timid and is afraid to decisively change lanes or take their eyes off the road in front of them. That means no mirror checking, no blind spots, and sometimes no signaling. Look for them to slowly creeeeeeep over and not respond to honking or flashing.
  • Cars that are close to each other. If you haven’t already, check out my post on spring hypothesis, which is my belief that people are more likely to behave erratically the closer they are to other vehicles or turns.
  • When I am near major turns, onramps or offramps. Cars are more worried about making the next stop than noticing if you are there or not. Learn the major intersections, merges, and exits of your typical routes and be extra careful
  • People talking on their mobile phones. This is particularly important when the person is talking with their left hand, as this hampers their ability to check their left mirror or blind spot.

What to do when a lane incursion starts to happen

  1. Move to the opposite half of your lane. This is an anticipatory move, which you may be doing already as part of your normal due vigilance. If the car is moving in from the right, slide over to the left. Some might argue this encourages the car to further creep into your lane, but standing your ground and being run over doesn’t sound too bright, either.
  2. Get ready to haul ass. Your instinct may be to brake, but you may not be able to avoid being clipped by the car coming into your lane. Furthermore, braking suddenly enough to avoid a swooping lane changer may leave you susceptible to being rear-ended by any vehicles behind you. I find that it’s better to try to stick to the off-hand side of the lane and scoot ahead of trouble.
  3. Lay on the horn. Chances are they are blasting their music too loud to hear, but I’ve had a couple of people swerve back into their lane when I honked. One fellow got so scared he threw his drink on himself. :
  4. As you can read, there aren’t a lot of options once the incursion begins. Your best bet is to anticipate and avoid people who will enter your lane before it happens.

    Stay alert, and keep the shiny side up.

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2 Comments on "Random Motorcycling Tip #10: How to Avoid a Lane Incursion"

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  1. Gremlin says:

    Wear gloves with enough armor on the knuckles to punch their mirror off. Haven’t had one ignore that yet.

  2. Ric says:

    another tip is to avoid situations where you’re level on the highway with more than one other vehicle.

    If there’s a vehicle on each side of you, you lose the option of retreating into a neighbouring lane, if the two other vehicles are to one side of you, the nearer vehicle may unexpectedly swerve towards you if the farthest vehicle moves towards them.